US to Move 9,000 Marines Off Japan’s Okinawa Island

Posted April 27th, 2012 at 12:10 am (UTC-5)
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About 9,000 U.S. Marines will be moved from the Japanese island of Okinawa to other locations in the Pacific region under a joint agreement between the United States and Japan.

The deal was announced late Thursday in a joint statement by Washington and Tokyo. The Marines will be moved to Hawaii, the U.S. territory of Guam and Australia. The announcement did not indicate when the Marines will be moved.

Tokyo is required to pay $3.1 billion of the estimated $8.6 billion cost to relocate the Marines to Guam.

The deal is aimed at alleviating tensions between the two allies over the longtime U.S. military presence on Okinawa, which has become a source of aggravation to residents who say it has led to noise, pollution and crime. The United States struck an agreement with Japan in 2006 to move the Marines Futenma air base from a crowded urban area on the island to a more secluded coastal area.

But residents are demanding that the base simply be shut down and moved elsewhere.

The U.S. has some 47,000 troops in Japan, mostly on Okinawa.

The deal was struck ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's trip to Washington next Monday for talks with President Barack Obama.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised Japan as “not just an ally, but a close friend” in a statement Thursday.